Why Neatsy Wants You to Take Selfies of Your Feet

Scan your feet for a perfect fit

Key Takeaways

  • Neatsy uses the iPhone’s FaceID camera to take 3D scans of your feet.
  • You can then order sneakers though the Neatsy app, and they should fit you perfectly.
  • Online returns.
Screenshots from the Neatsy App

Neatsy

Sick of ordering sneakers in your size, then having to send them back because they don’t fit? Neatsy uses your iPhone’s selfie camera to scan your feet so you always get the perfect fit.

The iPhone’s front-facing FaceID camera can read depth. That’s how it makes a 3D map of your face to unlock your phone. Neatsy’s app uses the same 3D scan on your feet. You then tell it the brand and the size of your most comfortable sneakers, and it combines that with the scan to get the perfect, personalized fit every time. That’s the theory, anyway. 

"It's essential that we find ways to stop doing so many returns," Berlin-based fashion stylist Nuria Gregori told Lifewire in an interview. "Even at a professional level it costs us money and time. On the other hand, I haven't found any site with a completely reliable sizing guide. You have to order more than one item to be sure."

Returns

According to an estimate from Shopify, online returns in the US during 2020 were set to reach $550 billion, up from $350 billion in 2017. That estimate was made in February 2019, before COVID closed stores and turned everyone into an online shopper. That’s not only expensive, but it’s an environmental disaster, shipping-wise. 

Shoes are a particular problem because they have to fit correctly, and the size numbering system isn’t actually standardized. This is sometimes mentioned in the online store description. A brand might be said to "size big." That’s why it’s usually safe to buy a replacement for a favorite sneaker online, but difficult to shop for new brands.

Bad Fit

Sizes can even vary in the same brand. The molded form, or last, used to shape a shoe varies based on the kind of shoe. A sneaker and a dress shoe are designed differently, and a basketball shoe is different from a running shoe. 

“What size I wear, [depends] not only on the brand but also the model, and what the shoe is meant to be used for,” writes Fabian Gorsler for High Snobriety. “That means a running shoe will inherently fit differently to a golf shoe or a football boot—even if in the same size.”

How Neatsy Works

Neatsy’s app is as ingenious as it is simple. The first time you run the app, it walks you through a scan, and asks you to tell it the brand, model, and size of a pair of sneakers whose fit you love. 

The scanning process uses the iPhone’s front-facing camera, which can create a 3D model of what it sees, in quite high resolution. The app instructs you to wear plain, solid-color socks, and to roll up your pants. Then, you sit cross-legged to take a selfie of the soles of your feet, using an on-screen template to position your foot correctly. Next, you place your feet on the floor, and take a shot from the side.

The app then creates a model of your foot, and can tell you the correct size to buy, based on brand and model. You then buy the sneakers through the app, and Neatsy takes a cut.

This kind of biometric approach is ideal, if it works, and it’s especially good for shoes because:

  • The size of our feet doesn’t change much.
  • While you can squeeze into a sweater, or let a loose-fitting shirt hang off you, shoes need to fit right, or they damage your feet. 

Neatsy eventually wants its model to be a standard part of online clothes shopping.

"The app serves as a new low-return sales channel for a retailer and as a way to see the economic effect on returns by themselves," Neatsy CEO and founder Artem Semyanov told TechCrunch

The idea is that a low rate of returns for sneakers bought through its app will not only be good for consumers, but will be a great demo for the retailers. In fact, while us buyers might enjoy easier shoe shopping, it’s not really that inconvenient to order three pairs in different sizes and return the ones that don’t fit. The biggest winner here will be the retailer, who can substantially cut return costs, and the environment, thanks to massive reductions in shipping. 

And now, with online shopping in huge growth thanks to COVID (Amazon has been hiring an average of 1,400 per day), reducing returns is more important than ever. If Neatsy takes off, then we’ve solved sneakers. Now someone just has to work out how to order perfectly fitting clothes.

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